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Celebrating the life of the original African Bluesman

By Matt Yanchyshyn

Ali Farka Touré, one of the most internationally acclaimed artists in West African music, has died today after a long illness. He was 67.


You can read the many obits floating around the web for yourself, but personally his music had a huge influence on me. Way, way before I ever even thought of moving to West Africa - or even out of Canada - I was into Touré’s albums.


Talking Timbuktu, Radio Mali and Niafunké were a gateway into the rich world of contemporary African rock and blues, and ultimately helped shape my musical taste for the region.


Talking Timbuktu, Niafunke and In The Heart of the Moon remain some of the best West African albums in my collection. Red/Green, The River, The Source and Radio Mali are also on that shelf and get routine play on the African shuffle.


If you can believe it I was still in high school when Talking Timbuktu hit Toronto record shops in 1995. At the time I would’ve been rocking to whatever hiphop, pop, etc was cool in the mid-nineties. I’d always been into music a bit out of the norm, but Ali Farka Touré really helped me break-out of the North American sound and explore folk, blues and rock from other countries, notably Mali, Brazil, Senegal and South Africa.


I can thank Touré’s albums along with some Nigerian funk compilations I picked-up in the late-nineties for what is now nearly a 10-year obsession with world music, African in particular.


Rest in peace, grand Touré.


Yanchyshyn is an expert on African music and the Associated Press' (AP) correspondent in West Africa. He blogs at mattgy.net



Ali Farka Toure:Tribute and Podcast

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